RSM Elvis Week: Super-Fans, Fried Burgers and More Elvi

Part 4 of a Real Southern Men Adventure

Confession: these posts are starting to make me tired. Our weekend in Memphis was exhausting, and reliving them is equally so. Last time, I had just been assaulted with the P-word by a vagrant in TGI Friday’s. Mentally battered, weary, I retreated to my hotel room to fight anew the next day.

After what seemed like a week in Memphis, we were finally on day two of our Elvis Week excursion. With my old Expedition loaded to the roof with gear, we coffeed up and drove back to the Cedar for a couple of interviews. The place, fortunately, wasn’t as smelly as we had left it a day earlier. Upon our second visit, I found we ignored the shabby hotel even more and focused on the wares at hand. It was like a portable Elvis museum.

A selection of Keith Alverson's Elvis photographs

The first thing to catch the eye upon entering the meeting hall was a corner booth featuring dozens of large-format prints of Elvis in concert from the 1970s. This was the booth of photographer Keith Alverson, one of the photographers helping us with our film. As a young man, Keith saw Elvis live more than 80 times, photographing over 50 of those.

Before starting our interview about Keith’s recollections of our film’s hero, Duke Bardwell, he regales us with stories of run-ins with Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’ notorious manager and the time he got front-row seats for an Elvis show at Huntsville’s Von Braun Civic Center for not one, but three shows … all because he included a couple of sticks of Juicy Fruit in his written ticket request. He told us that in those days, you could drive to Huntsville from Atlanta, catch and Elvis show and have a steak dinner all for about thirty bucks. We had spent that much already on coffee and the gas we burned driving five miles from downtown.

Photographer Keith Alverson

He also wasted no opportunity to harass me about my collegiate allegiance (Roll Tide). Keith, though he lives in the Atlanta area, is a dyed-in-the-wool Aub. I like him despite that … somewhat. Poor Kris got lumped in with me as an Alabama [redacted]. Perhaps it was because we shared a hotel room.

Following Keith’s interview, we interviewed “Rockin’ Robin” Rosaeen, widely acknowledged as having the largest private collection of Elvis memorabilia this side of Graceland. Like Keith, she had seen Elvis dozens of times in the 70s.
Robin’s been on Oprah and a whole mess of other TV talk shows, so we’re just glad she’d bother to talk to us. During her interview, she mentioned that no one she’s talked to ever had a bad thing to say about playing in Elvis’ band. Our film might be a shock to her system, then. Robin was gracious, kind and downright vulnerable in her interview.

Bidding adieu to the ever more crowded Cedar, we went back downtown and grabbed a bite at a somewhat famous – or is it infamous? – Memphis diner, Dyer’s Burgers. According to legend and the marketing hype, elements of the grease used in the Dyer’s fryers (yes, I know that accidentally rhymed) dates back to 1912. They consider it so valuable that the grease is locked in a safe every night. Why is grease important at Dyer’s? Because they deep-fry their burgers, of course.

Joking about the irony, Kris and I both order Diet Cokes and burgers. Naturally, I add bacon to mine. I am something of a Bacovangelist, after all. I took the photo to the left in Instagr.am and caption it, “Having my first Dyer’s burger. I hope I live to regret this.” Kris compares the burger to a “Krystal on steroids.” He means it as a compliment.

A trio of Elvi...who look nothing like Elvis

Chock full of fried burgery goodness, we waddle over for a beverage at the legendary Peabody. On our way in the door, Kris literally ran clap dab into Johnny Ace – a good thing since his interview had audio issues. We got his contact info and planned to meet again later. Shortly behind him a trio of Elvi were leaving the building. They paused for photo ops with guests in the lobby. Again, none of these guys looked remotely like Elvis.

Another collectibles show awaited us upstairs. This particular show was the newcomer on the block, as opposed to the show at the Cedar, which has been around for decades. Being at the Peabody, of course, meant that the show looked first class. The meeting room was posh, well-appointed and exuded a bit of the charm of the hotel’s famous lobby. These vendors even had matching cloths on their tables, as opposed to the random, unmatched plastic Walmart specials at the Cedar. But their wares? Meh. It was not an inspiring site. Some photos, some vinyl and a whole lot of DVDs and CDs. Collectibles? Really? Then it hit me: I’d rather be at the Cedar.

The Peabody Ducks

Boring quickly with the selection, we make haste to get those drinks. I opt for a latte, Kris for a Bloody Mary. We belly up to the bar, just a couple of arm lengths from the fountain home of the vaunted Peabody ducks. We overhear the bartender say something about the ducks being replaced every couple of months because their wings begin to atrophy. I sense no sympathy from those within earshot. They just want a picture with the duckies.

A sign of the times, Kris and I both bury our noses in our iPhones, diving into various online social media while being generally unsociable in the flesh. Ah, the wonders of modern technology. The bartender, a raven-haired young lady with adult braces and a vaguely German-ish accent, makes a quip about how we’re probably texting each other. She then asks if we need anything.

“If we do,” I reply, “I’ll text you and let you know.” Everyone at the bar laughs. Thanks, folks. I’m here all hour.

Elvis super-fan Rockin Robin Rosaeen

Come back tomorrow as I wrap up this series with a look at one very strange night on Beale Street, complete with the “Real Black Elvis.” You won’t want to miss it!

In the meantime, check out snippets of Keith and Rockin’ Robin in the trailer for Duke & The King. Shalom, y’all!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. RSM Elvis Week: TMI and The Real Black Elvis | Real Southern Men - August 26, 2011

    […] Elvis collectibles, been assaulted with a verbal barrage of the P-word, and tempted fate with burgers fried in hundred-year-old grease. However, none of that could adequately prepare us for one strange night on Beale […]

  2. RSM Elvis Week: Revisiting The Real Black Elvis | Real Southern Men - August 14, 2012

    […] Elvis collectibles, been assaulted with a verbal barrage of the P-word, and tempted fate with burgers fried in hundred-year-old grease. However, none of that could adequately prepare us for one strange night on Beale […]

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